Sweat & Clyde’s - The Lynn Nottage Theatrical Universe

Lynn Nottage, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, won her second Pulitzer for her 2015 play, Sweat. Shortly before the play finished its Broadway run, Nottage announced that she was writing a companion piece. Nottage spent a great deal of time interviewing the residents of Reading, Pennsylvania to write Sweat, and had more she was interested in exploring there. 

Sweat takes place at a bar in Reading, Pennsylvania as the locals—all of whom have some connection to the local steel mill, Olstead’s—drink, gossip, and dream of the lives they wish they could lead. The play jumps between 2000 and 2008. In 2000, millworker Jason is in his early 20s and dreams of buying a motorcycle and his own business with his best friend Chris. Chris, however, has been accepted into an academic program, destroying Jason’s dream. Rumors spread that layoffs are coming to the mill. 

Months later, Jason is enraged to learn that the mill is asking the employees to take a 60% pay cut. He and Chris picket in front of the factory and get into a physical fight with a local Latinx man who has crossed the picket line to take a temp job at the mill. Later that night, at the bar, Jason sees the temp worker and, in a spout of rage, hits him with a baseball bat while Chris restrains the man. During the attack, Jason accidentally hits the bartender, who is a long-time friend.  

In 2008, Jason and Chris have both been released from prison and are on parole. Jason, fearful of the way his emotions can cause him to lose control, is now incredibly apathetic. He is in his late 20s and has acquired white supremacist facial tattoos from his time in prison. He struggles to find a job, and the financial insecurity causes him great anxiety. While Jason is remorseful for his actions, he has also become radicalized and uses racial slurs against his parole office. The play ends as Jason returns to the bar to find that the temp worker is now the manager of the bar, and the bartender who Jason accidentally struck, has a traumatic brain injury, rendering him deaf and mute.  

Clyde’s takes place in the kitchen of a highway-side sandwich shop in the same county that Sweat was set in, opening as Jason, a new hire, meets his coworkers, all of whom are former felons.  

If Sweat was about the end of a way of life in a community, Clyde’s is about a group of formerly incarcerated people finding a new way to live in the world. Where Sweat was grounded in the losses of its characters, Clyde’s finds spaces where its characters are kindling their hope. As Nottage has said about her diptych about Redding, PA. “I wanted to write about the deindustrialization happening there,” Nottage said, “but I also wanted to write something fun, accessible and irreverent.” 

Emily Abrams